Don’t Choke When You Speak

Alexia Communication, Happiness, Women's Issues

jessie spano“I’m so excited. I’m so excited. I’m so excited. I’m so….scared.”

I have always loved the Saved by the Bell episode when Elizabeth Berkley utters these words mid-meltdown. Fortunately, unlike Berkley’s character Jessie Spano, I’ve never had an addiction to caffeine pills; but I have unsuccessfully dated perfectionism most of my life. And there is nowhere a perfectionist’s anxiety surfaces more than in her public speaking.

It’s extraordinary, and I don’t mean in a good way, how when we are on the cusp of saying something big we often amp ourselves up with somewhat manic self-talk.

I’m terrified.

Nobody is going to like this (or me!).

Just try a little harder, Lex. You have to say this better.

Practice one more time. (And by one more, I usually mean 7 more!).

I espouse that the best speaking is extemporaneous—it’s planned, rehearsed, key points (especially engaging questions) are memorized, and then the rest is found in the moment while demonstrating real communion with an audience.

The words we are going to speak out loud are only one facet of our performance. Another, equally important component, are the words we are speaking to ourselves.

Whenever people tell me they are scared of public speaking, or that they choke when they speak (i.e., their voice quavers, they misuse words, or their delivery is stiff), I’m as curious about what they are saying to themselves prior to and while speaking as I am about their content or their speaking style.

The words we speak to ourselves determine the ease with which we deliver our words to an audience.

Nasty self-talk leads to wonky delivery.

To minimize choking when you speak—literally (i.e., too much or too little saliva or difficulty articulating letters and words) or metaphorically (i.e. physiologically going into a fight-or-flight response), every time you practice speaking, also practice the self-talk you want to be performing.

While you may have some positive affirmations such as, “I speak with confidence, clarity, and compassion” or “When I speak, people listen,” prioritize asking a few ‘how’ questions.

How can I make this a fun and worthwhile experience?

How can I trust that I know enough, that I am enough?

How can I choose grace for myself and for my audience?

When we address fear and self-doubt with a ‘how’ question, we remind ourselves that we are the creators of our own reality. We train our minds and our bodies to approach scary situations with calm rather than crazy. We set ourselves up to be focused on our audience, rather than on our ego, when we speak.

We overcome the fear of speaking each time we choose to create and sustain the habit of positive self-talk. And it takes effort, for even the most positive, opportunity-centered person. It actually also takes effort to question our competency and beat ourselves up in the process. We get to choose where we put in the work—to get in the way of our impact as speakers or to facilitate it.

**TEDxFremontEastWomen Auditions**

Las Vegas women, it’s time. On May 29, 2015 I will co-organize and co-host Las Vegas’ third sold-out TEDxWomen event. My partner Jess Tomlinson and I invite you to submit yourself to be considered for 1 of 9 spots to speak.

We are currently on the lookout for local Las Vegas women from across industries and sectors (think Downtown Las Vegas start-up founders to community changemakers to organizational leaders) who have an important “idea worth spreading” they would like to present this spring.

There are 2 ways to be considered for a speaking spot.

  1. Request a spot at our live speaker auditions on Saturday, February 7th from 1-3pm. (Audition spots are filled on a first come, first serve basis. To request one, please grab full details HERE and be on the lookout for an email from us confirming further audition details.)
  1. Submit a video excerpt of your proposed talk, not to exceed 3 minutes. (Note: If choosing this option, please do not submit a talk on another subject. We want to see your presentation delivery and style specific to your proposed “idea worth spreading.”) Details on how to submit HERE.

Good luck!